Columbia County building project timeline
October 2014: Columbia County officials finalize building project proposal, consisting mainly of new Administration and Health and Human Services buildings on opposite sides of the Portage Canal and remodeling the courthouse for court-related use only.
November 12, 2014: County Board votes 23-3 on “intent to bond” resolution for $45.51 million, satisfying the requirement of a three-fourths majority – 21 “yes” votes from the 28-member body.
November 2014: County Board Chairman Vern Gove appoints ad hoc building committee to oversee project’s “nuts and bolts.” Members are Chairman Kirk Konkel, Mike Weyh, Fred Teitgen, Teresa Sumnicht and Andy Ross.
January 2015: Potter Lawson, the Madison design firm that guided the county through its building needs study, is hired to design the project, out of five firms that applied; J.H. Findorff and Sons of Madison is hired to manage construction, out of nine applicants; the County Board borrows the first $10 million, mainly for design and property acquisition.
February 2015: Architect Ron Locast presents vision of three-story Administration Building, on the canal’s north side, and two-story HHS building, on the canal’s south side, as “gateway” to downtown Portage.
June 2015: County Board approved eminent domain process to acquire the Big Chicken antique shop (including a century-old mill) and the Gruber Automotive business, after negotiations fail to attain an agreed-upon price
October 2015: “Staggered” building schedule proposed, with construction of Admin building to start about six weeks before HHS.
January 2016: County Board borrows additional $18 million; bids for new buildings come in under budget.
March 2016: Canal-side construction starts ahead of March 16 groundbreaking ceremony.
May 2016: Committee sees courthouse renovation plans.
June 2016: Proposed courthouse renovation exceeds budget by $2 million; canal dredged in vicinity of new buildings; Findorff hosts pizza party for city, county officials and construction employees on second floor of under-construction Admin Building.
September 2016: John Gruber vows not to move from his business, despite court ruling that Columbia County owns the property; county pays $160,000 for Gruber property, but money remains unclaimed; County Board opts to delay HHS move to new building, and use new HHS building as temporary courthouse during remodeling.
November 2016: County Board borrows remaining $17.51 million.
December 2016: Judge orders Gruber to vacate property.
February 2017: Gruber vacates property.
March 2017: County Board tours not-yet-finished new buildings; $7 million in courthouse remodel bids awarded; Gruber building razed.
June 2017: Departments move into Admin Building; first County Board committee meeting (Human Resources) held in new Building; County Board marks first Admin Building meeting with flag ceremony, keynote speaker; county settles eminent domain litigation with Gruber.
July 2017: Court offices move to HHS building; courthouse remodeling more than $500,000 over budget; another added cost, for security station, is considered.
October 2017: Finance Committee sees cramped HHS accounting office quarters; building project’s $464,000 overrun is detailed.
December 2017: Cost overruns described as “moving target;” architect says “tight” HHS accounting space meets requirements.
June 2018: Courts move to remodeled courthouse, HHS moves to new building.
August 2018: Dedication, ribbon-cutting planned for building project on Aug. 18.